I wonder if Chaplin would be surprised by our "Modern Times"? What surprises me is how backwards things are now. There are hardly any unions protecting workers, they are a thing of the past. Companies can treat workers as poorly as they want. In the movie "Modern Times", Charlie has a nervous breakdown trying to keep up with the"speed up" and gets arrested because he was mistakenly identified as a communist instigator. (How familiar is that? The President has been accused of being one.) Once freed, The Tramp tries to get re-arrested, so that he can have a place to live and food because he couldn't get a job. Reminding me of so many people who, after they are incarcerated, find no work and just get arrested again, they can't make it, because of the lack of opportunity in this "Modern" America.
The Little Tramp then, gets another factory job. (where did they go?) He gets his boss caught in the machinery and rescues him. He gets arrested again, for accidentally assaulting a policeman. When he's released, he utilizes a technique we now call "networking" and gets in touch with the girlfriend who is a dancer in a cafe. She gets him a job as a singer and a waiter. Unfortunately, the cops catch up to the girlfriend who had previously been caught stealing a loaf of bread, (Les Miserable's, still a popular theme today.) ending their employment. They are seen, in the end, striking out on their own, off on another desperate adventure. Like a lot of people all over America and the world, caught up in austerity and hard times, living on the edge has become commonplace. I see "Little Tramps" on the roads everyday, pedaling their bicycles, (if they are lucky enough to have one) trying to keep moving, so they don't get arrested for vagrancy. Today's Modern Times, seem to have retrograded to the "good old days" only they weren't so good, they never were.We have gone back in time to a period when workers had few rights. The manufacturing capacity and the unions that helped create the middle class have disappeared.
There's only one recent movie "Les Miserable's" where the impoverished and disenfranchised are represented. Usually invisible or ignored, there are no comedies about their circumstances.
We could use someone like Chaplin today.
The Little Tramp showed us how we could take tragedy and turn it into comedy. I don't know anyone who has that kind of sense of humor about the circumstances we find ourselves in now. Maybe there's nothing very funny about our backwards slide into a time when workers could be fired on a whim, poverty is commonplace and mass unemployment is acceptable. Maybe everything old is new again? There doesn't seem to be anything "modern" about the times we are living in.
|Coming to a tent city near you.|